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Is Bit.ly Toast if Libya Shuts Down the Internet?

It’s possible.

One of my tweeps just sent me a link to an article questioning what would happen to .ly domain names if Libya decided to “shut down” the internet.

It’s a very good question. One of the most popular URL shortening services, bit.ly, uses Libya’s .ly domain name.

We can rewind a bit and note that this isn’t the first time this question has been asked, and look at what happened in Egypt for the answer.

First things first, it doesn’t take social unrest to question the fate of a country code domain name. Back in 2009 Rogers Cadenhead asked a pointed question about .ly given Libya’s reputation in the world.

Then a .ly link shortener was shut down because it linked to adult content.

But if Libya “shuts down” the internet rather than taking aim at a particular service (and it could take aim at bit.ly given its use to spread news about Libya on Twitter), what happens to anything on the .ly domain name?

We can look to what happened in Egypt for a very recent and relevant answer.

When Egypt stymied the internet the primary servers the ccTLD operators used were inaccessible as they were in Egypt. This meant they couldn’t resolve addresses.

In the case of the ASCII .eg domain name there were secondary servers that had cached the primary, meaning .eg domains were still accessible.

But the IDN version of Egypt’s country code hadn’t been cached at secondary locations, and it wasn’t accessible.

I suspect .ly has been cached on secondary servers, but I don’t know for sure.

The larger message is that there are dangers to using ccTLDs. Another example would be when Argentina retroactively enforced registration limits. Natural disasters can also play a role.

True, there are dangers to all TLDs. But some (.com) are safer than others.

Users need to be aware of the risks they’re taking.

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  1. Andy says


    Just checked and the root servers are:

    dns.lttnet.net – Libya
    ns-ly.ripe.net – UK
    dns1.lttnet.net – Doesn’t resolve
    auth02.ns.uu.net – US
    phloem.uoregon.edu – US

    So there’s no technical problem with the infrastructure per se. However, it’s really up to Gaddafi – he could send an edict to the registry and have specific domains removed from the zone, or trash the whole zone if he really wanted to.

    He’s already blocked certain websites like Facebook and Twitter, and even targeted power cuts at protest areas.

    Anybody relying upon .ly for anything serious is naive, at best.

    Incidentally, I once held an Indonesian domain name (.web.id), but their infrastructure sucked and the whole zone became inaccessible from outside Indonesia during a period of flooding. The registry failed to take me up on my offer of running some redundant root servers for them, so I dropped that domain too.

  2. Sai Pola says

    Hi Andrew:

    Bit.ly has other options as it anticipated such issues in future.

    My latest blog post covers the same issue and also shows the way out for bitly and other .ly guys

    The recent frenzy and media hype “.CO” is generating is also fraught with the same issues.

    “Looks COOL” should not be the only criteria for domain name selection.


    Sai Pola

    • Andrew Allemann says

      @ Sai Pola – even if bit.ly switches to a back up URL, there are millions of links on the web that already point to bit.ly. So it still fails going backward — it only works going forward.

  3. Bo says

    That is why you should never develop a site on third world country codes like co. because who knows what Colombia will do in the future. People take a huge risk developing a website on these foreign country codes. It is one thing to gamble on buying and selling domain names but to build a business site on third world extensions is far too risky

  4. Doaminer24 says

    Just goes to illustrate the value of a good .COM TLD. Seems obvious that our friends at bit.ly would love to have a good one right about now, but alas, they are getting hard to come by. Just wait until after the big gTLD .FAIL — by then a good .COM will truly be a precious commodity.

    Still not sure what makes ICANN think that new gTLDs will sell when the previous “in-demand” extensions such as .AERO, .TRAVEL, .BIZ, .JOBS, .MUSEUM, .PRO and .COOP were all abysmal failures. More of the same will ensue when history repeats itself.

  5. Newdomainer says

    I cannot believe that you bunch of insensitive fools are discussing the potential loss of value of .ly domain names when dozens if not hundreds of young men and women are being shot dead by the Libyan forces AS WE SPEAK!
    I’ve never been as embarrassed to be into domaining as I am to be in any way related to this mindset…. please open your eyes and get a life.
    Rant over.

    Free Libya, Godspeed to the brave protesters

  6. Live Questions says

    At some point whats is happening in the middle east will land on our own door step and the real question should be, how do we prepare for that or what do we do when the Internet is switched off in our own country?

  7. Johnnie says

    Yeah, .com are *SO* safe. Tell that to the 84000 poor fellows accused of pederastia by Homeland Security.

    The US has way too much control over the Net.

  8. I'm with Newdomainer says

    I’m with Newdomainer on this. Getting caught up in technical details or the cost impact is overlooking the bigger issue here. Just because another country’s domain name might be cute and short, try considering what you will be supporting by using it.

    If you’re for rulers like Gaddafi, who have no problem killing their own people, then by all means, use .ly domains to your heart’s content. But if you actually care about other people and want them to be free, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.

  9. Andy says

    @Newdomainer Neither this article nor the comments were concerned with domain values or profit.

    From my point of view the discussion was about the stability of the namespace, which many people (inside and outside Libya) rely upon, not least due to the popularity of services like bit.ly.

    I’m sure we’re all just as concerned and appalled by the ongoing events in Libya.

  10. Kieran says

    Hi to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from
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